SONG TITLE: JUST CALL ME JOE
PERFORMER: SINEAD OCONNOR
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1987
COMMENTS: The last cut on her stunning debut album finds Sinead tripping heavily. She seems to be tumbling backwards through the memories of past lives and battles, male and female, stored deep in the coils of her DNA. She's singing and playing and talking in layers, over and around herself. There seem to be ancient warriors fighting dragons in the myst and peasants holding up under political repression and religious persecution, and all of them are Sinead.
It's hard telling where she was coming from here. Some would think of the effect as psychedelic, implying the use of chemical hallucinogens. More likely she was thinking more of some ancient Irish religious mysticism.
I have no clue who the songwriters are, but I sure wonder what their demo song sounded like and what they thought of her finished product. There is a nice relatively simple minor key tune on which this labyrinthe structure is built. They gave her "Don't call me 'mister,' just call me 'Joe.'" She ran with it. Ms. O'Connor aka Joe took an interesting little tune and performed miracles with it.
This may sound like a mess, but she had the amazing vision to hold all these things up and put them together so that they made sense and left a haunting impression. The song is built on a very slow and heavily distorted guitar riff that holds the thing together. The timbre of it sounds like Hendrix, but played excruciatingly slow. It builds up a meticulous torque that cannot be stopped.
It all sounds like a slow-motion dream, except that she seems to be distinctly wide awake and fully aware. It's not simply that the tempo is slow, but that all the myriad people and events are moving at half speed. Her sense of time is so expaded that she is experiencing centuries of experience in just a few minutes.
How can one describe such a thing without sounding like a fool? It is beyond my modest talent, but Sinead makes it real. Furthermore the sense of the centuries unfolding reflects back across the album and sheds light on the rest of it.
The ultimate theme here is the oneness of identity. Whitney Houston had a stupid little song in which she claimed to be "every woman." Yeah, well here Sinead really is every woman, and every man too. Or as John Lennon expressed it, "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together." Or you can just call her Joe.
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